Starting Your Own Firm
I genuinely thought I was part of some long-term punking. I get so many calls from people wanting to hire me who use the same lines to try to get me to take the case. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I have a slam-dunk case that is going to make some attorney wealthy, but I need an attorney who can understand this case and won’t be intimidated by the other side.”
There’s one guy out there — I have no idea how I ended up on his distribution list — who sends me weekly flyers like you might get from a real estate agent trying to sell you a business, but they are all for HIS own personal cases. They are on impressive pre-printed forms, and the client just fills in the blanks. They look something like this:
TYPE OF CASE: FRAUD, NEGLIGENCE, BATTERY
DATE OF OCCURRENCE: March 9, 2014
FACTS: I was eating at Denny’s, and I ordered a veggie-burger, but the waitress brought me a regular hamburger.
DAMAGES: $4,700,000 (see below).
NOTES: I have been a vegetarian for more than ten years, and am suffering severe emotional distress, knowing that I have now eaten meat. We can also claim it violated a religious belief. Denny’s will settle quickly to avoid the bad publicity. I have my receipt and I kept the hamburger as evidence.
ATTORNEY’S PERCENTAGE: 10% ($470,000). Easy money for aggressive attorney.
Now comes L. Maxwell Taylor, who created Red Flag Intake Sheet BINGO, listing all the lines used and behaviors exhibited by potential clients that should raise red flags. Mr. Taylor has brought me a new level of comfort, because I now know it’s not something I’m doing that attracts these clients. Apparently we all get our fair share.
Some are so detailed and specific: ”Addresses you by jaunty-sounding truncated version of your name before introducing self.” I get that all the time, with the variation that they seek to create a bond with something they found in my bio. “Aaron-Aaron-Bo-Baron. I see you used to live in Tucson. I drove through Tucson once. Maybe we were there at the same time.”
“Voicemail box not set up/full” is another biggie, and it always involves someone who has no patience.
“I called you an hour ago and I did not receive a callback.”
“Actually, I did try to call, but I got a message saying your mailbox is full.”
“Oh, yeah, I screen all my calls.”
Check out the entire list at the link above. Thanks to Mr. Taylor for writing it, and thanks to Carolyn Elefant for posting it.
I happened across an article entitled Thinking of Going Solo? Think Carefully, published on the American Bar Association website by an attorney named Jennifer Ator. It is important to read the introductory paragraph, because Ms. Ator specifically confirms that starting your own firm can be a wonderful thing, and states that once her friends “eventually made the leap of faith, they were glad they did.”
But Ator qualifies her statement by contending that the happiness of those friends came in part from the fact that they did not remain as solo attorneys for long, opting instead to “set up firms that were not structured that much differently than their larger firm practice.” The remainder of the article is a cautionary tale of how lonely it can be as a solo practitioner.
Nothing Ator says is wrong, per se, but the points she raises are akin to warning that you should really think twice about opening your own firm because, after all, you’ll need to have business cards printed. While true, the issues are so easily overcome, they don’t really warrant much pondering. I suppose being a solo could be a lonely experience, but it was never the case in my experience. I’ll set forth each of her bullet points, with my response.
“IT’S CALLED FLYING SOLO FOR A REASON”
As a solo, you’ll have no one to share your victories and frustrations with, Ator begins. She concedes you can share with your staff, “but they can’t give the kind of feedback and validation a fellow attorney can.”
This statement evidences Ator’s vision of solo practice, and it is very different than mine. You certainly could set up an office where it is just you ensconced alone in an office, but that is completely unnecessary and not a good idea for a newbie. I transitioned away from the big firm practice by finding a firm that would provide me an office from which to start my own firm, while working for them on a contract basis and giving them a cut of whatever I brought in. I thus not only started with very little overhead, but I was surrounded by fellow attorneys to give me “feedback and validation”.
Lest you say that was a unique circumstance, when I cut that umbilical and truly went solo, my first office was at an executive suite where dozens of other attorneys had their offices. We all referred cases to one another, and everyone’s door was open when one of us needed to bounce an idea off someone or to ask about a procedure. We put together an office lunch every week, where we consulted on one another’s cases. Indeed, I found the information much more free-flowing in that environment than I had at the big firm, where every conversation that wasn’t billable was viewed as an intrusion.
“FLYING SOLO MEANS NO COPILOT OR NAVIGATOR”
“Once you’ve gotten past the loneliness, a solo practitioner faces a disadvantage from the lack of readily available collaborators”, states Ms. Ator. She decries the loss of the attorney down the hall who can tell you about a judge, or opposing counsel “or even how best to handle a difficult client.” As set forth above, that is obviously not the case if you surround yourself with attorneys, or have them available to you through professional groups.
I did have to learn that even on the bigger decisions, like how to pursue a claim in an unfamiliar practice area, you don’t have to go it alone. I had a case where one of the defendants filed for bankruptcy, and I found myself having to navigate bankruptcy court. I was spending way too much time trying to figure out the vagaries of bankruptcy court, and finally brought in another firm to handle that part of the case. I see this sort of collaboration all the time. Attorneys unfamiliar with anti-SLAPP law bring me in to handle those motions. Attorneys who don’t yet feel comfortable in trial bring me in to first chair their first few trials.
“WHEN YOU FLY SOLO, YOU PUMP YOUR OWN GAS”
Ator uses the example that unlike working at a big firm, where the IT guy will deal with any problems with the Internet, when it goes down at your office, you will be the one waiting for AT&T.
Not really. Admittedly, this was another lesson I had to learn, but I soon realized that taking days to set up my computers and network was really expensive when that time could be spent on client work. Yes, you won’t have your own full time IT guy, but you can still have one on call. I just tried to recall the last time I had to spend any significant time on an administrative task, and nothing comes to mind.
Every advantage I had at the big firm can be duplicated. At the big firm if I hit a procedural logjam, for example, I could put a more junior associate on researching the task. Now I use contract attorneys. I don’t bill, order office supplies or deal with the landlord; it’s all delegated. Perhaps this is what Ator was referring to when she said that solos eventually structure their firms like big firms, but practicing law for yourself and under your own terms has no similarity to working at a big firm.
As reported elsewhere, we received a very satisfying verdict of more than $1.5 million resulting from a defamatory email sent by a defendant, concerning our client. The defendant did not go silently into the good night, and appealed the verdict, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to support an award of that size.
That’s all fine and good, but in appealing the verdict, the defense attorney completely misstated the record. On an appeal based on insufficient evidence, the appellant is required to set forth all the evidence that would tend to support that verdict. Indeed, if the appellant fails to do so, the Court of Appeal can deem the issue waived.
I devoted a full two-thirds of my responsive brief on appeal just setting the record straight by pointing out all the misstatements made by defense counsel. For example, in his email, the defendant had claimed that our client failed to deliver the purchased product. This was one of the defamatory statements because the product was delivered on time, and at trial no fewer than four witnesses attested to that fact. Only two witnesses claimed to the contrary — the defendant and his wife. In the statement of facts in the opening brief, the defendant repeatedly stated that the product was not delivered on time, and each time cited to his own testimony while ignoring all other evidence to the contrary.
At trial and in conjunction with motions, you can argue the facts most favorable to your case, but on appeal that is verboten. Defendant/Appellant was required to set forth the testimony of the witnesses that stated the product was delivered on time.
The same attorney handled the trial and the appeal, and he had been completely professional and ethical during the trial, so I genuinely believe that he simply did not know the rules on appeal. He no doubt thought, just as with law and motion, he could argue only the facts most favorable to his position and leave it to the opposition to argue any contrary facts. Still, I was a little disappointed at oral argument when the Justices did not take him to task for failing to properly set forth the record. I surmised that they felt no need to do so because they were planning to excoriate him in the opinion.
Today I received that opinion from the Court of Appeal, and from the first sentence of the opinion, it was clear that my supposition was correct.
The opinion opens with the sentence, “All things considered, appellant got off cheaply in the trial court.” Not something an appellant wants to read when the entire appeal is based on the claim that the damages were too great.
As regards the one-sided statement of the record, the court said:
Appellant has misstated the record in numerous particulars, as shown in a respondents’ brief so devastating it has left Appellant, like Job, with no reply but silence and a hand over his mouth.” (Emphasis added because I really like that part.)
The court then provided a half-page, single-spaced footnote, setting forth just a few examples of the defendant’s misstatements of the record. It indeed had to have been devastating for opposing counsel to read this opinion, and I can’t imagine how he is going to work up the nerve to show it to his client.
The Justices obviously had some fun with this opinion. In our brief, I had mentioned in passing that defendant had created an email address that combined my client’s name with a derogatory Hindi word. The justices took the time to locate A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English, published in 1884, in order to determine just what the word in question meant, and then threw it in defendant’s face.
The lesson here is that if you are going to work in areas unfamiliar to you, you must take the time to bring yourself up to speed. My guess is that opposing counsel does not normally handle appeals, and did not know about having to set forth unfavorable testimony. He is now saddled with an opinion that publicly takes him to the woodshed. An hour with an appellate practice guide could have avoided all of that, and perhaps saved the client the cost of a failed appeal.
In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I discuss all the factors Google looks at to determine which search results will appear on page one.
I came across this very good video that discusses the issues as well, and provides a basic summary of how Google works. The video covers only the basics, but I really like the example used to explain incoming links, which also covers the importance of proper anchor text. I also appreciate that the author never tries to sell anything.
As set forth in How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline, backlinks are important, and they are something you should strive for, but as I show, you can land on page one with no backlinks.
No doubt much to the chagrin of my partner, I give away an obscene amount of free legal services. The thing is, I’ve been doing this so long that I have worked out easy solutions for many of the legal problems I get calls about. Most attorneys would no doubt bring the caller in and charge a consultation fee or charge to write a letter, and that’s perfectly appropriate, but it is often the case that if I just spend 15 to 30 minutes on the phone with the caller, I can give them the information they need to fix the problem (or at least let them know that there is no economically feasible solution to the problem).
If I can solve a caller’s problem in 30 minutes or less, I generally don’t charge for my time. Like most attorneys, I take pro bono cases, but I consider this informal help line to be my biggest pro bono contribution. And having solved the problems the callers thought would require a lot of time and attorney fees, they are of course very appreciative. Some practically fall all over themselves, wanting to show their appreciation for the help I provided. Many offer to pay for my time, and some seem to be put off if I tell them I’m not going to charge them. It’s a weird dynamic. I don’t charge because the warm fuzzy I get from helping someone with a few minutes of my time is payment enough, but I get the sense that they think I assumed they were just mooching my time and that’s why I’m not asking for payment. I provided an invaluable service to them, and they are seemingly hurt that I won’t let them compensate me in some way.
To deal with this dynamic, and as my own little test of human nature, years ago I came up with a procedure I follow when the caller is insisting on paying me for time I decided to provide pro bono. When they are going on and on about how I saved their life, and asking what they can do to repay me for the time, I give the following response:
Do you have my address from the website? Good. Tell you what. If I billed you for the time I spent with you on the phone it would be about $200, but I am so happy I was able to help you out so quickly, just send me $50 so I can take my wife to dinner, and we’ll call it even.
In almost all cases, they respond that they are so appreciative of what I have done that they are happy to pay the whole $200, but I say, “No, $50 so I can take my wife to dinner is fine. Just keep me in mind in the future if you or anyone you know needs an attorney.” I’ve probably been doing this routine for about 15 years, averaging two per week, so that’s about 1,560 times I’ve offered to “call it even” for $50 so I can take my wife to dinner.
I have never received a $50 check. Remember, this isn’t me broaching the subject. I get far more calls where the person thanks me for the information and hangs up, never asking if they owe me anything. I am only talking about the situations where the caller has said they want to send money.
From those 15 to 30 minute phone calls, I have kept people from losing their homes, going to jail, and/or saved them untold amounts of money, but no $50 checks. I literally saved a man’s life once. He was six hours away from dying due to a snafu over his dialysis treatments. I made some calls and got everything squared away. He thanked me for saving his life and asked if there was anything he could do to repay me. No check.
If my wife really was dependent on these callers for her dinners, she’d be emaciated. The sad thing is that my largess is probably costing me business. When the callers do later need an attorney, they probably don’t call because they never sent the $50.
Since I wasn’t getting the $50 checks anyway, as of late I’ve changed it up a little just for the amusement factor. I thought maybe it was the amount that was throwing them a curve. Maybe in their minds since I’m taking so little for the services provided, and don’t seem to care about the money, that it’s not even worth sending. So I took money out of the equation. Now when they ask what they can do to thank me, I say something like, “send me a box of See’s Candy” or “send me a Starbucks card.”
On a recent occasion, I responded with “send me some chocolate-covered fruit.” I was actually envisioning one of those fruit bouquets from Edible Arrangements, but as you can see from the photo, I received a very nice box of chocolate-covered strawberries today. Close enough.
After 15 years, my faith in humanity is restored. Start your own firm, and you too could have a shot at a box of chocolate-covered strawberries once every 15 years.
Bloomberg Businessweek published a great article on Tuesday, discussing fake Yelp reviews, following a sting operation in New York, designed to catch businesses engaging in the process.
Referring to the process as “astroturfing”, the article details the sting by the New York State Attorney General. The AG set up a fake yogurt shop in Brooklyn, then approached search engine optimization (SEO) companies, asking for assistance in combating negative on-line reviews.
The SEO companies did what many unscrupulous SEO companies do – they flooded the Internet with positive reviews for their client business. In one case, a company called Zandel posted over 1,500 fake reviews on websites such as Yelp and Google Places. The AG viewed these false positive reviews as false advertising, and charged the companies accordingly. The cases were all resolved with “assurances of discontinuance” and fines ranging from $2,500 to $100,000.
The article lists a number of non-SEO businesses that were also fined, but does not explain the link between them and the fake yogurt shop scam. I am guessing that once the AG determined which identities were being used to post the fake reviews for the yogurt shop, it was a simple matter to see which other businesses received reviews from those “reviewers”. The fact that many of these reviewers were in Bangladesh and the Philippines made clear that they were not real customers of the businesses.
I applaud the efforts of the New York AG’s office in exposing the problem of false reviews, but I think they approached it from the wrong angle. To use an admittedly strange analogy, it’s the classic issue of whether you should go after the prostitutes or their customers if your goal is to discourage prostitution. Bear with me.
It has been estimated that as many as 20% of reviews are fake. Just as the prostitutes are only there because there are customers, the temptation to post false positive reviews comes in part from the need to combat the false negative reviews. Picture the boxer who scrupulously avoids hitting below the belt while his opponent pummels him in the groin. His adherence to the rules is the right thing to do, but you can imagine the frustration. (I’m just full of analogies today.)
False positive reviews are bad, but I submit that false negative reviews are far worse. When a business posts a fake positive review, that review may be entirely true and even based on a real customer experience. It is fake because it is not written by an actual customer, but it may not be misleading beyond the identity of the poster. In other words, if a steakhouse posts a review from a fictional customer, saying “I love the steaks here,” chances are some customers really do love the steaks there but never got around to posting a review.
On the other hand, when a company posts a fake negative review about their competition, the “reviewer” is creating an entirely fictional negative experience with the business, and there is no reason to believe that any customer actually had that negative experience. Using our steakhouse example, if the false negative review says, “my steak was cold and was mostly gristle”, that may never have occurred and unlike the false positive review, would be totally misleading.
If a government agency is going to spend our tax dollars trying to protect the sanctity of Yelp reviews, I hope that at least equal time will be spent addressing all the false negative reviews.
In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I provide the following anecdote:
There is a classic Peanuts comic, where Linus is going door to door trying to sell wadded up pieces of paper as cat toys. His sales presentation is good, but he never makes a sale. He asks the cat owners to picture the hours of fun their cats will have playing with the wadded up piece of paper. Nonetheless, he can’t get past the fact that he’s selling wadded up pieces of paper. He loses the sale every time, because the prospective customers realize and explain that they can wad up their own pieces of paper.
I don’t know why that comic stuck with me, but I see it played out over and over in real life, especially on the Internet. To this day, solo practitioners who can’t afford it are spending thousands of dollars to have people build websites for them. To fulfill my continuing education requirements, I was at a law firm marketing seminar recently where someone claimed that incoming links are essential to successful search engine optimization (SEO). He claimed that you should have 30,000 incoming links to your site, and as luck would have it, he just happened to offer a link-building service for the “limited time, have to buy it now or the offer is lost for ever” price of $1,950 per month. He normally required a one year commitment, but attorneys signing up on the spot only had to commit to six months. Attorneys were lined up to pay $1,950 per month — a total commitment of almost $12,000 — for incoming links to a single website! The website fiverr.com offers 50,000 incoming links for just $5, and they are just as worthless as what this person was offering.
These sorts of absurd SEO claims and pricing are far too commonplace. By accident or design, many so-called SEO experts mystify the process so that you won’t realize it’s just wadded up pieces of paper, and you can wad your own paper, thank you very much.
Today I came across an interesting article by Jared Jorde entitled 5 Reasons Attorneys are Easy Marks for SEO Scams on a blog called LawLytics. Jorde has apparently witnessed the same sort of nonsense I reported, and provides a detailed look at the reasons behind the phenomenon. The article is worth a read to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of the scams yourself.
LawLytics is itself in the business of creating websites for attorneys. In Big Fat Pipeline, I explain how to create your own websites for just $6 per month, and I use that as a point of reference when someone is offering to create websites for me. I have no objection to farming out that work, and although I have no experience with LawLytics, I’d bet their websites are fancier than my own meager efforts. You went to law school to practice law, not to create websites. So by all means allow the pros to create your sites if your budget permits, but just keep in mind that it isn’t magic, and you can wad your own paper.
My primary practice area is free speech and defamation, and I receive a lot of phone calls from potential customers, wanting to sue for false reviews on Yelp. Most Yelp users probably realize that there is a great deal of self-promotion going on, but I don’t think most know that Yelp is replete with false negative reviews. On more than one occasion, when we tracked down the IP address of the person posting false negative reviews about a business client, we found that it was a competing business. In one case our client was a dentist, who suddenly received several terrible reviews. It turned out the culprit was another nearby dentist, who had an employee whose job duties included creating false Yelp identities in order to post false positive reviews about his employer, as well as false negative reviews about the local competitors.
Against this backdrop, it is not hard to imagine that business owners, including attorneys, might be frustrated enough to be tempted to level the playing field a little by posting a few positive reviews about their own businesses. Yelp itself doesn’t appear to be doing much to curb that temptation. I get probably two calls a month from potential clients, complaining that after they refused to subscribe to Yelp’s services, Yelp responded by removing most or all of their positive reviews. If true, then Yelp cannot seriously contend that it is interested in the integrity of its reviews.
But despite all of this, honesty remains the best policy, as evidenced by a recent action by Yelp against a law firm that allegedly gave into the temptation to post its own reviews. In this case, a small San Diego law firm, the McMillan Law Group, subscribed to Yelp’s services, allegedly based on representations that were made about the number of page views it would receive. When the results fell below what the McMillan Law Group says was promised, it demanded a refund. Yelp balked, and the law firm sued in small claims court. The firm prevailed, and obtained a $2,700 judgment against Yelp.
“The McMillan Law Group, a San Diego law firm specializing in bankruptcy, exemplifies the behavior that Yelp combats daily through its algorithms and investigations—the planting of fake reviews intended to sway potential clients with false testimonials. The McMillan Law Group’s efforts to mislead consumers are particularly brazen and disappointing given they have targeted some of the most vulnerable consumers of all—individuals who may be facing bankruptcy and who are looking for potential legal representation.”
In the complaint, Yelp details its investigative results, alleging that multiple Yelp user accounts were created from a computer located at the same McMillan Law Group IP address used to create reviews about that law firm.
In an interview with Bloomberg Law, Julian McMillan stated, “It’s bullying tactics. I get it. They want me to spend some money but I just don’t see how they come a winner in this [from a PR standpoint].”
As McMillan also notes, Yelp’s lawsuit seems like a really bone-headed move from a discovery standpoint. Since Yelp is claiming that false reviews by the McMillan Law Group have interfered with its contractual relations and caused it damages, it has now made all of its business practices and income fair game for discovery. It will also be very interesting to learn whether Yelp routinely brings such lawsuits to maintain the integrity of its reviews, or does so only in response to being sued.
For a detailed discussion of the love fest between Yelp and the McMillan Law Group, see the article at Bloomberg Law.
[UPDATE -- November 25, 2013] Round one goes to the McMillan Law Group. The lawsuit appears to be primarily for harassment purposes as opposed to any real desire by Yelp to preserve the integrity of its reviews, and to that end Yelp brought the action in San Francisco, even though venue appears to be in San Diego. Today, the judge in San Francisco agreed, and ordered Yelp to pay McMillan nearly $5,000 in attorney fees for the motion the law firm had to bring to get the matter transferred to San Diego. A detailed discussion of the motion can be found here.
If the threat of getting in trouble with the State Bar is not enough, maybe the threat of both civil and criminals actions will get attorneys to toe the line.
You know that it is an ethical violation for an attorney to threaten criminal action as a means to extract a civil settlement. For example, California’s Rules of Professional Conduct state that “a member shall not threaten to present criminal, administrative, or disciplinary charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute.” (Rule 5-100.)
Then there are the criminal extortion laws:
“Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent . . . induced by a wrongful use of force or fear. . . .‟ (Pen. Code, § 518.) Fear, for purposes of extortion ‘may be induced by a threat, either: [¶] . . . [¶] 2. To accuse the individual threatened . . . of any crime; or, [¶] 3. To expose, or impute to him . . . any deformity, disgrace or crime[.]’ (Pen. Code, § 519.) ‘Every person who, with intent to extort any money or other property from another, sends or delivers to any person any letter or other writing, whether subscribed or not, expressing or implying, or adapted to imply, any threat such as is specified in Section 519, is punishable in the same manner as if such money or property were actually obtained by means of such threat.’” (Pen. Code, § 523.)
Despite these prohibitions, some attorneys can’t resist throwing a threat of criminal action into their demand letters. They apparently think (if they give it any thought at all) that an express or veiled threat of criminal action will be protected under the litigation privilege, but that is not the case. If you include a demand for money in a letter that threatens to pursue criminal action, you have committed extortion, and as Flatley v. Mauro held, that is not protected speech because criminal acts are not protected.
The most recent example of this was discussed in the just published decision of Miguel Mendoza v. Reed K. Hamzeh. According to the opinion, an attorney named Reed K. Hamzeh was representing a client named Guy Chow, seeking to recover money allegedly owed to Chow by Miguel Mendoza. The dispute concerned Mendoza’s employment as the manager of Chow’s print and copy business. Hamzeh sent a letter to Mendoza’s attorney, which according to the opinion stated:
“As you are aware, I have been retained to represent Media Print & Copy (“Media”). We are in the process of uncovering the substantial fraud, conversion and breaches of contract that your client has committed on my client. . . . To date we have uncovered damages exceeding $75,000, not including interest applied thereto, punitive damages and attorneys‟ fees. If your client does not agree to cooperate with our investigation and provide us with a repayment of such damages caused, we will be forced to proceed with filing a legal action against him, as well as reporting him to the California Attorney General, the Los Angeles District Attorney, the Internal Revenue Service regarding tax fraud, the Better Business Bureau, as well as to customers and vendors with whom he may be perpetrating the same fraud upon [sic].”
The letter goes on to list Mendoza‟s alleged transgressions, including failure to pay Media’s employees, sales taxes and bills.
What followed next was Flatley all over again, with some additional twists. In May 2011, Mendoza responded to the demand letter by filing an action against attorney Hamzeh, asserting causes of action for civil extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices. Just as in Flatley, Hamzeh thought his letter was protected under the litigation privilege, and brought an anti-SLAPP motion to strike Mendoza’s complaint. But here, the plaintiff’s counsel had the benefit of the already decided Flatley, and wrote to Hamzeh to say that the anti-SLAPP motion would be frivolous since the facts fell squarely under that decision. Hamzeh decided to go ahead regardless, and after the court denied the motion it awarded attorney fees on the ground that the motion had, indeed, been frivolous. Hamzeh then appealed from the denial of the anti-SLAPP motion, and lost. The action against Hamzeh for civil extortion and the other causes of action will now proceed.
The takeaway from Hamzeh’s experience is that the standard for civil extortion is very low. On appeal, Hamzeh argued that his demand letter was not nearly as egregious as the one utilized in Flatley, which was true, but as the court found, the issue is not how far the letter goes, it is whether it amounts to civil extortion as a matter of law. As you can see from the Penal Codes above, that requires only a demand for money in conjunction with a threat to “expose, or impute to him . . . any deformity, disgrace or crime . . . .” That standard is incredibly broad! It doesn’t even matter whether or not a crime occurred that can be properly reported. Further, as I just realized in preparing this article, the threat doesn’t even need to concern criminal conduct; it is enough to threaten “disgrace”. If an attorney wrote a letter suggesting that the defendant should settle to avoid having his family realize what he had done, it appears that would constitute civil extortion.
Bottom line: Limit your demand letters to the merits of the case, and leave out any secondary threats.
The website CareerBliss.com has compiled a list of the happiest and unhappiest jobs in America, and found that associate attorney is the absolute worst. Based on a survey of 65,000 employees, which examined such factors as relationship with boss, work environment, job resources, compensation, daily tasks and control over work, associate attorney rated just 2.89 out of five points.
“Associate attorneys stated they felt most unhappy with their company culture,” Heidi Golledge, chief executive of Career Bliss said. “In many cases, law firms are conducted in a structured environment that is heavily centered on billable hours. It may take several years for an associate attorney to rise to the rank of partner. People in this position rated the way they work and the rewards they receive lower than any other industry.”
Notice, the conclusion is not that being an attorney is the most miserable job, but rather being an associate attorney. This follows my own experience of hating the practice of law when I worked at a big firm, but loving it when I started my own firm. Notice also that money isn’t everything. Associate attorney was the highest paying job, on average, by a significant margin, but it still came in last. (An associate’s “high” salary is largely illusory, as explained in my article Fun With Numbers.)
So stop being a miserable drone! Pull the plug and start your own firm.
- You’re Not Alone — Everyone Gets Some Crazies
- Does Starting Your Own Law Firm Have to be a Lonely Experience?
- Don’t Be That Attorney — Misstating Record on Appeal
- How Does Google Work?
- Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Restore My Faith in Humanity
- New York Busts 19 Companies for Fake On-Line Reviews
- Five Reasons Attorneys Get Suckered by SEO Marketing Scams
- Yelp Sues the McMillan Law Group, Claiming it Posted Fake Reviews
- iPad Tip for Lawyers: Put Your Contact Information on Your Lock Screen
- Best Client Call of the Week
- Think Before You Demand — Miguel Mendoza v. Reed K. Hamzeh
- Unhappiest Job in America: Associate Attorney
- Damning With Faint Praise – The Ongoing Saga of Sharon Bell v. Igal Feibush
- Sleazy Attorney Technique No. 3: “Discovery? What Discovery?”
- A Lesson Relearned, and How to Defeat an Ex Parte Application
- If You Lie Down With Dogs You Wake Up With Fleas
- Learning to Lose with Aplomb – Part Two
- Don’t Be That Attorney – The Uncommitted Extortionist
- Should You Write Yourself a Bonus in a Fee Agreement?
- From the Trenches – Genius Advocacy or Sleazy Tactics?